Mothers have supersonic hearing. It's true. I've known this for a long time. I noticed it when I first became a mother and subsequent births have only served to reinforce the fact. By "supersonic" I'm not referring to the speed of sound, of course. We're not talking jets here. What I mean is that mothers have an unusual auditory acuity, an increased ability to hear certain sounds associated with babies. A baby's cry, whimper, cough, sneeze, all are magnified in the mother's ear to an uncanny and even supernatural degree. What mother has not had the experience of being awakened from a dead sleep by the slightest sound that her infant makes and then being compelled to assure herself that all was right with the precious one? It's both a curse and a blessing, for although we have all heard of, or even experienced, the miraculous instances when this phenomenon has resulted in tragedy averted, the vast majority of the time it is merely our little ones making the normal sounds they make in there sleep and causing alarm for nothing. Causing alarm for nothing is what they do best.
I have always thought that there must be some scientific basis for this observation that was worthy of clinical study. And I always assumed that if a verifiable cause could be determined it would probably point to a physical change that takes place in the mother during pregnancy or birth and would no doubt have some kind of hormonal origin. Recently, however, I have discovered that this hypothesis cannot be valid. It has been thirty years since I've given birth and experienced the onset of this amazing ability and yet with Kiley in my life I now find it happening again. I can hear her breathing in the other room. I can hear her moving in her sleep from upstairs. I can hear her whimper over the noise of the dryer. Since any changes due to pregnancy are thankfully far in my past there must be some other mechanism in play here, some other agency at work.
Perhaps the source is the baby itself. Maybe they release some kind of pheromone that triggers certain changes in adult females of the species. I imagine it permeating every room of the house, thick in the air like pollen in springtime. (No wonder the dog is scratching so much. He's probably allergic.)You can't avoid it and can't resist it. Slowly, it morphs your sensory organs or maybe even certain areas of the brain until before you know it a gassy baby sounds like the "Charge of Light Brigade" – volleying and thundering.
Then again, maybe it's not as complicated as all that. Maybe it isn't a physical phenomenon at all. Maybe it's a connection on a more basic level. Not everything can be explained by science or chemistry you know, and there is still such a thing as magic in the world. Kiley and I have become attuned to each other. We are in sync, on the same wavelength. The feel, the smell, the sound of her is imprinted on my mind and the essence of her on my heart. Every mother and every woman who has loved a child has felt this. It has always been so. When the first woman loved the first child an eternal connection was forged, mystical and wondrous, and that bond has remained, through all the generations, as clear and strong as the river that flowed through paradise. And so, when we reach out to one another, woman and child, we too are caught up in the unending flow that connects us to each other. The connection that cannot be broken, not by time or distance, age or separation. It has to stretch a little and pull thinner as our babies grow so they can be themselves. That makes it thinner when they are thirty than when they are three, stronger at six-teen than sixty, but no matter how far it stretches or how old they grow it can never fully be broken. And so when our children cry, or whimper, or call to us in their sleep, whether they are small and just down the hall or grown and half a world away, we here the tiny sound, like a whisper in Eden, and are drawn to them wherever they may be.